STEM Family Night – Fun Learning Night for All!
Posted: Friday, December 11th, 2015
by Joanne Michael
Seven years ago, a colleague and I were working on getting accepted to NASA Advanced Space Camp for Educators. We had been to basic camp, loved the experience, and knew for us to be accepted for Advanced Camp that we had to do something big. We decided to do a Space Night at our elementary school, have a pre-registration sign-up, invite scientists and educators from around Los Angeles come to do a 45-minute workshop, and it would be just the thing to get us accepted. 7 years later, Science Night is now the biggest event of the school year, with over 2/3 of the student body and their families attending on a Friday night in the spring (and yes, we were both accepted into Advanced Camp!).
There are many different ways of hosting or leading an evening STEM night. Before teaching elementary, I taught 8th grade Physical Science at a school that every subject had a night activity during the year. We had a Math Night, Social Studies Night, Science Night, and English/Language Arts Night- all of which were well-attended, and planned to be about 2 months apart from each other, to not interfere with the other events. Each classroom teacher was in charge of some kind of hands-on activity in some aspect of their subject matter. For example- for Science Night, one room was dissecting squid (with a side table cooking up the squid to much on), another room made bracelets with each color of bead representing a genetic trait, one room had a “murder mystery”, where the students had to look at the fingers swirls of the suspects (classroom teachers), and try to figure out who committed the crime. Each activity did not cost too much, was able to be completed in about 10 minutes, and had some component to take home- either the actual activity, or a handout that explained the science behind what they did. The hope would be that when they saw the paper, bracelet, etc, that it would help them remember what they had done that evening, and inspire more questions or thought.
At my current school, we had not done anything of that matter before. Doing a Science Night at an elementary school was easier in some aspects (thinking of something hands-on that covers a concept is easier when thinking about a 6-year-old as opposed to an 8th grade student), but also remembering that an elementary school is much more likely to have very young siblings that shouldn’t have items easily placed in their mouth makes it more challenging. Over the years, Science Night changed from a pre-registration, maximum of 30 people per workshop, and only 2 workshops in an evening, to an Open-House format, with 15 workshops, and a 3-hour window of time. In addition to the workshops, there is normally 2 or 3 shows – animal shows, a “bug guy,” or some presenters from a workshop doing a bigger production.
So how do you go about starting a STEM night? Begin with what surrounds your community. If you teach in a Title I school, there are a bunch of companies and museums that will come to your school in the evenings to lead programs, either for free or at a very reduced cost. Many large companies, particularly in the aerospace industry, have programs for schools that vary between guest speakers to building paper airplanes, to shooting off rockets – all you have to do is ask!
Depending on your school demographics, you may have some parents or community members that are in STEM fields that would be willing to come out to show what they do. Pictures, videos, maybe a small hands-on activity is all that so many kids need to get inspired for a new career option that they had never considered before.
But what about if you live in an area that doesn’t have a company around willing to host, and the families or community members are not interested in presenting? If you have a few teachers willing to jump in, you can still make an incredible night! NASA has a number of easy-to-lead, hands-on activities such as “toys in space,” in which the kids make or play with a variety of toys, and then can watch videos of the toys being played with on the International Space Station. I have had parents lead a “fun fly” station, where they can play with battery-operated “wands” to create a static field in order to keep small mylar shapes upright. Have a teacher who is a fan of coding? Bring out some iPads, and have the students do some simple coding with Scratch Jr. or a similar program. Options are endless!
Over the years, our school’s Cub Scouts have gotten involved, selling pizza for the night. The boys are excited, because it helps them earn badges, the families get fed, and the scouts have then donated the proceeds back to the science program- everyone wins!
While it can take a lot of prep to get started, the magic that a STEM night produces for the students, the school, and the community is incredible. Give it a shot! If you need ideas on how to get an evening started, please feel free to contact me!
Joanne Michael is a K-5 Science Specialist for Manhattan Beach Unified, and is CSTA’s Intermediate (grade 3-5) Director.
Posted: Monday, March 27th, 2017
The California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) stands with our science and science education colleagues in endorsing the March For Science and its associated activities.
The decision by the CSTA Board of Directors to support the March for Science was based on the understanding that this is an opportunity to advocate for our mission of high quality science education for all and to advance the idea that science has application to everyday life, is a vehicle for lifelong learning, and the scientific enterprise expands our knowledge of the world around us. The principles and goals of the March for Science parallel those of CSTA to assume a leadership role in solidarity with our colleagues in science and science education and create an understanding of the value of science in the greater community. CSTA believes that the integrity of the nature of science and that the work of scientists and science educators should be valued and supported. We encourage your participation to stand with us.
There are over 30 satellite marches planned for the April 22, 2017 March for Science in California (to find a march near you, click on “marches” in the upper right of the main page, select “satellite marches” and use the search feature). We encourage members who participate in the March for Science to share their involvement and promotion of science and science education. Feel free to promote CSTA on your signs and banners. For those on social media, you may share your involvement via Twitter, @cascience and our Facebook groups.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…